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KiwiCo: Inspiring the next generation of designers

KiwiCo: Inspiring the next generation of designers

31 January 2019

Although it seems unlikely that there will be any changes to the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) qualification, and the creative and design T-Level will not be available until 2022-23, 2019 should be the year that there is a greater focus on workplace training. In the short-term, the government will be publishing its review into business productivity and it is clear, based on evidence, that design must be part of any solution to the productivity puzzle.

In 2018, our Designing a Future Economy research showed the pipeline of future designers had nosedived, with number of students design and technology at GCSE-level down 60% since 2000 and 50% of schools having closed their departments. However, at the same time, our 2018 Design Economy report showed the design economy is booming, having generated £85.2 billion GVA. This is 73% of the value of the financial services and insurance industry.

Design will provide the skills required in numerous sectors of the future, from artificial intelligence (AI) to driverless cars. These findings combine to show that unless we improve access to design, there is a growing risk of a split between people who can take advantage of these opportunities and those who are not.

To find out who is out there developing educational solutions to design, we spoke to KiwiCo whose mission is to support kids’ creativity and encourage them to be makers and innovators.

What is KiwiCo and how will it benefit children?

KiwiCo inspires children to see themselves as makers—engineering and creating their own innovative designs and outcomes, the STEAM projects are designed to spark creativity, tinkering, and learning. Providing the next generation of innovators with the tools and a foundation to become creative problem-solvers and critical thinkers.

In the Design Economy 2018 report it is established that design is a form of innovation. Design Council has previously found that traditional pathways to design education such as secondary schools are being eroded. How do you envisage KiwiCo to help children gain an interest in design and innovation?

KiwiCo was established out of the conviction of the importance of developing creative confidence, which helps children think big – act like creators and producers instead of just consumers. Children with creative confidence don’t assume one "right way" to build with blocks, paint a picture, or solve a problem. Their unique way is the right way, building their confidence by providing them with unique and creative hands-on projects.

How will your products teach students about how design and STEM subjects are linked?

Our newest line, Eureka Crate, was envisioned with exactly that goal: to teach children (ages 14+) about how design and STEM subjects are linked. Each project is designed to inspire children to think about the design and engineering behind the objects all around them.

Each Eureka Crate starts with building an object with real and lasting utility; items like: an articulating arm desk lamp, a tunable ukulele, a mechanical pencil sharpener. This provides a hands-on lesson in the creative and purposeful application of science and engineering principles to solve a real-world problem. By connecting the project to its design history, children can see themselves as part of an ongoing story of invention — and build the creative confidence to write the next chapter.

KiwiCo is used in schools. How is it integrated into the curriculum and how will this benefit students?

KiwiCo projects may be used in multiple areas - from STEM labs to science classes to afterschool programs to homeschoolers, exposing children to STEM, STEAM, design and engineering starting at preschool through to secondary school.  

Our projects benefit students by providing a learning experience and exposure to STEM topics that is hands-on.  Students also receive a supplemental magazine with additional articles, resources and DIY activities to extend the learning further.

One of the recommendations in the Design Economy 2018 report, is that educational institutions must do more to break down the boundaries between different subjects, how does KiwiCo help with this?

All our projects are designed to be multi-disciplinary – incorporating art, design, math, engineering and science. We believe that innovation and creativity is strongest when children (and grownups!) leverage both sides of their brain, and that the greatest discoveries and a-ha moments often come at the intersection of different disciplines.

In the Design Economy 2018 report it was found that more than half the respondents expect the demand for design-related skills, such as originality and ability to generate new ideas, to increase in their sector or industry. How does KiwiCo teach these skills to children?

We are firm believers in the importance of a creative mind, and the ability to solve problems when there is no one right answer. We’ve all heard the stats that when our kids enter the workforce, most of the jobs that they will be applying for don’t even exist today. The best way we can prepare them for that future is to be creative problem solvers and innovative thinkers. With this in mind we created our KiwiCo Design Principles, which guide the development of every single project we create:

  • Inspire: Promote self-expression and celebrate the process of making
  • Create: Projects and materials span multiple developmental areas.
  • Engage: A fun way for children, and their parents, to spend time.
  • Curate: Inspiration and quality materials for kids, who bring them to life.
  • Deliver: Everything’s included so it's easy to embrace the creative process.

According to the Design Economy 2018 report, the economy is changing, and design skills are in demand, however, the number of students studying design is decreasing. How will KiwiCo help education providers to break down the boundaries between subject areas to ensure an interest in design from an early age?

All our projects are designed to be multi-disciplinary – incorporating art, design, math, engineering and science. We believe that innovation and creativity is strongest when science and creativity are mixed. The intersection of different disciplines is what results in great discoveries and innovations. All which are necessary for future engineers, scientists and digital pioneers to generate new ideas and inventions.

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